Archive for Intervals

The People Demand Answers!! January 2013

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

I’ve decided to start a question and answer post to change things up a little bit. This will allow more different topics to be answered without necessarily getting into the depth that a full post/article would require. That being said, please feel free to email in questions, use the comment box, post on our facebook page or send us a tweet. This installment is made up of either questions I’ve been asked lately or things that I’ve heard that need correcting. Enjoy.

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On the cardio machine, the fat loss setting picks low paced cardio; Is that really the best way to burn fat??

Fat loss is an interesting topic because there are a number of different ways of achieving it. To decide what’s BEST is a whole other story. Let’s get into some basics about energy systems to answer this one. I’m putting it in layman’s terms so if you’re another coach, try to keep this in mind. There are 3 main energy systems that our body uses for energy. These are: the phosphagen system, the glycolitic system, the oxidative system. The phosphagen system uses ATP stores to produce energy used in extremely short and high intensity movements (think sprint or heavy lift). The glycolitic system uses glycogen stores (carbs essentially) to produce energy for moderate intensity exercise and kicks in after ATP up to about 20 or 30 minutes. The Oxidative system uses fatty acids to produce energy for long, low intensity movements. So technically, this setting is correct for activating the oxidative system. However, if we do bouts of High Intensity interval training (HIIT) then we will burn through all 3 energy systems. Your body can only produce so much ATP in such a short amount of time [note: supplementing creatine can help with this], so your body will be forced to jump to the next system when the first runs dry. Thus, we can actually start activating the glycolitic system earlier with intervals than with slow paced cardio. So it still will burn fat, but intervals will allow a much better, more complete energy system response.

If I want to get faster, should I just do interval running?

Following up on the post above, interval work should be meant for conditioning or fat loss work. What people need to realize about speed is that it is extremely technical and also extremely demanding on the body. In order to truly increase your speed you need a structured program and a qualified coach to help you with this. With your coach you can work on the two determinants of speed: output and direction. When you are fatigued during intervals, both of these values would be negatively affected; Your output will be significantly dimished and fatigue will adversely affect your coordination. More often than not I see (from others) intervals as continuous repetition of bad mechanics. So in closing, use intervals for conditioning work but high quality, high output repetitions are necessary to increase speed.

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When doing weights, should I progress up to heavy weights or start heavy (over the course of multiple sets)?

To lift a given weight, your body will only try to recruit as many muscle fibers as it thinks it needs. Over the course of multiple sets, those fibers will become fatigued and you will no longer get efficient functionality out of them. So that being said, if you start with 20lb dumbbells and then discover after each of the first two sets that you need to go up by 5, you may not be able to lift 35lbs efficiently by the third set. This is why tracking your weights is important. On the first set start as high as you think you can (realistically) for that rep range because you can always decrease the weight as you get fatigued, plus you know that you’ve also recruited a maximal number of muscle fibers for that rep range.

Disclaimer: Do warm-up sets to get used to the movement and the loading if you are working with more than body weight, then start counting your sets after you’ve progressed through these warmup sets!

That’s it for this installment of questions, if you have any questions you’d like answered, again, use twitter, Facebook, email or a comment below.

Remember,
It’s About Getting Better!

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Do You Know What You Are Training?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

Training can be a tricky thing. Most people will tell you it’s just about effort, and for the most part that is where it starts. If you put in lots of work, good things will happen. If you don’t, it becomes hard to make change. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s talk specifics…

If you are looking to improve body composition, sometimes it doesn’t matter WHAT you do, as long as you are doing enough work in general. If you have plenty of room for improvement, then almost anything works, as long as you are doing SOMETHING. However, when your goals are more specific, you need more specific ways of structuring your training and I’ll outline some of these.

You can learn more about this from THIS ARTICLE.

In general, training needs to be focused on a specific characteristic. The one’s we’ll discuss here are Strength, Hypertrophy, Power/Speed, Body Composition, and Conditioning.

NOTE: These categories overlap, and improvements will generally be seen in multiple areas, but the biggest improvements should be seen in the area of FOCUS.

Strength

Typically this is where you will see a lot of the focus for athletes and powerlifters. The average gym goer will opt more for hypertrophy or fat loss due to the aesthetic effects rather than the performance gained from a strength-focused block of training.

When training for strength, a large portion of the adaptation comes from the nervous system and its ability to coordinate the use of your muscle tissue. Synchronization of motor units, inhibition of antagonist muscle groups, and increased recruitment of motor units all contribute to lifting heavy weight on top of some increases in muscle mass.

Here are a few examples of strength work. This is typically compound movements (lots of muscles used) for high load and low repetitions.

Hypertrophy

This is definitely the most popular category for young men, because your biceps can never get big enough. Truthfully, having a decent amount of muscle mass is important for self-confidence and filling out half your wardrobe, so I definitely don’t know it. I think almost every guy has thought about putting on 10lbs of muscle, and every woman has thought about seeing a nice flat stomach. There is nothing wrong with being sexy.

There are a lot of different programs and approaches that are used for hypertrophy but there is definitely a best-way and all the rest. The catch is whether you want muscle mass and strength and power to all improve together. This goes back to the concept of specificity. You can accomplish all 3, but much slower.

Ideal hypertrophy training involves a high amount of volume per body part along with reaching that dreaded fatigue mark (1). In strength and power training this is discouraged, but with hypertrophy training this is the way to go…

Here are a few examples of the kind of volume you want to get for hypertrophy gains!

Conditioning/Fat Loss

If you think about the Crossfit approach, that is definitely the path to go for the best in conditioning and fat loss training. You want to work in a high-intensity heart rate zone with low amounts of rest. The key here is to build circuits with a strong resistance training component so that you are either building muscle mass or maintaining what you have, while shedding body fat. That will ultimately make for the best body composition (Think Percent Body FAT!). If you could do a 30-40 minute mixed workout while avoiding going over the 40 second rest mark you will probably build quite a body composition workout. If you take this version of a Hypertrophy program, cut some of the volume down and make it full-body, you’d have a great workout.

Power/Speed

This is the bread and butter for athletes, but should not be the primary focus year round. The key to power/speed is that you need a sufficient base of strength in order to express high levels of power. Power involves moving high amounts of force quickly. Moving a tiny weight quickly is just annoying, not powerful. There are a few different approaches for working on speed and power. First, are the weightlifting exercises, clean and jerk, and snatch. These are difficult to master so if you want to do them well, find a coach who knows how to teach them. If you are weak, go figure out the strength part first! The second method is complexing a strength and speed movement to maximize power in the second movement. This is also an advanced technique that works best in experienced strong lifters, so feel free to try it out, but don’t make it a staple of your program if you aren’t strong (think 2x bodyweight squat for STRONG). Finally, strictly plyometric (jumping) or sprinting workouts are great ways to improve speed/power. These can be box jumps, bounding, broad jumps, sprints, hill sprints, etc.

Here are a few variations of speed and power work..

Conclusion

The key to getting the most out of your training is knowing WHAT you want to accomplish, then executing properly on the HOW. Think about sticking in one category for 4-6 weeks in order to see some adaptations!!

It’s About Getting Better!

Razor’s Edge Performance

1.    Burd NA, West DW, Staples AW, Atherton PJ, Baker JM, Moore DR, Holwerda AM, Parise G, Rennie MJ, Baker SK, and Phillips SM. Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men. PLoS One 5: e12033, 2010.

5 Tools for 2012

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , on December 31, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

The holidays are over, it’s time to wake up. The food coma you’ve been in for the last 2 weeks is starting to wear off. The guilt is piling up almost as high as the holiday calories. It’s bad; you know it, I know it. The easy part? That was 2011. See what I did there? A fresh start for everyone.

A new year brings new goals and new ideas. There’s no better time to take your training game to a new level. This is where the title comes into play; below you will find a list of 5 training tools that can help you achieve your new goals in 2012.

1. 
Gymboss Interval Timer

The gym boss is an interval timer. Timing is crucial to training. Too little rest, your strength won’t return, too much rest, your heart rate returns to normal. No matter what your training goal is, a timer will be bring a consistency you’ve never been able to achieve before. Oh and if you’re looking to start interval training (hiit), this is probably the best interval timer on the market.

2. Multipurpose band

Iron Woody Stretch Bands

Besides a good timer, this might be the most versatile piece of equipment in your training bag. A good multi purpose Band can be used for strength, flexibility/mobility, warmup and explosive work.

3. Foam Roller

Maybe you have tried it, maybe you haven’t. We’ve talked about foam rollers before and other self-massage tools in the past, check them out here (Part 1 and Part 2). Not only is it a great tool for recovery from a good workout, it is also important for establishing good tissue quality as well as restoring proper length-tension relationships throughout your body. Issues relating to poor posture always require two things. The mobilization and release of the tight muscles that are causing restrictions, as well as the activation of the weak muscles that aren’t pulling their weight. Foam rolling is crucial for the release/mobilization aspect.

4. Grip4orce or fat gripz

Fat Gripz

While most people will credit the big movers for the majority of strength in things like pullups, bench press, and deadlifts, it is the grip that will hold you back from hitting that PR. The harder you can squeeze a bar, the more force you can put into it. If you have ever felt your grip fail during a set of deadlifts, you can recall how much your grip affects the whole lift. It is not just a matter of the bar slipping out of your fingers, but you lose your upper back, then your lower back, and finally your legs. When your grip is failing there is a reflex for the rest of your muscles to start turning off as well like a chain reaction. By using tools such as the Grip4orce or Fat Gripz, you can turn any bar or dumbell into a thick bar, constantly building your grip strength with every exercise.

5. Skipping rope

This is the best piece of equipment for cardio after your own legs. If sprinting is the king of conditioning exercises, then skipping is a prince. It is much more effective than jogging or biking (don’t even bring up the elliptical), and can be done virtually anywhere you have 8 or 9 feet of ceiling clearance. You can carry around a skipping rope all the time, and just break out the Gymboss to get a good interval workout in. If you haven’t skipped since grade 4, don’t worry, it comes back quick. Getting up to 45-60 secs straight with the rope is mostly about coordination and timing. After 60 seconds, it is all fitness!

If you still plan on doing some holiday shopping for yourself, then get these tools that will make your body and health a priority!

Most of these items can be found at Rogue Canada.

It’s About Getting Better!

Updates

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , on December 5, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

A couple of things to share with everyone today. We are now entering Christmas party season so it’s important to be doubly focused on your workouts since you are definitely going to go overboard in terms of alcohol and junk food consumption. This is more or less unavoidable. It’s the holiday season, don’t kid yourself. So the only defense is high-intensity workouts. They don’t have to be 2-3 hours long, just get the hard work done quickly, then the after-party won’t have as many negative effects on you…

Secondly, I have been seeing some amazing improvements in my vertical jump lately and I have written an article on the FITS website to outline some of the reasoning.  Check it out here.

Thirdly, we are proud to announce that we are the health and fitness voice at a fantastic new website, http://cavemag.com

Check out the first major article here.

CaveMag is a fantastic online magazine that provides health and fitness, lifestyle, sports, style, entertainment, and many other categories of great insight from a group of great writers. Make sure you check it out regularly to read all the latest.

That’s all for now, we’ll be back soon with some fresh content!

It’s About Getting Better!

Cory

 

Miracles are meant for the movies…

Posted in Health with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I can never truly decide what people believe. I always assume that they don’t believe the commercials, the tabloids, and some of the daytime talk shows. Unfortunately, I think many still do. There is no acai berry secret weight loss diet. There is no grapefruit makes-my-belly-go-away diet. Body transformation is about making the difficult decisions on a daily basis, not miracles. Here are the major keys to changing the way you look, feel, and perform. You can’t follow one and not the others, they all interact together.

Don't even think about it

Nutrition – You can’t get lean without it, but you can stay lean with low levels of exercise if nutrition is spot on. Ask a professional for some input about the ways that you can manipulate your diet to enhance fat-burning, muscle building, and recovery. Once you get the ‘rules’, it’s about keeping disciplined. There will be at least one tough decision per day about a snack, or meal that you want to buy instead of eating at home, or eating something you packed. Those tough decisions are the ones that lead to great results. If you are willing to invest in your health and body, go here and buy their system. It is probably the best combination of educational materials about nutrition, rules to follow, cooking instructions, and of course delicious recipes. Don’t worry about calories, worry about eating quality foods with as few ingredients as possible! The portions will take care of themselves. One thing you want to avoid, is cutting out all fats. I know a lot of people do fat free in everything and get blinded by calories and grams of fat. There are essential fatty acids that your body needs on a regular basis. Also, making sure you have plenty of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids can actually promote fat loss, so keep them in your plan! [If you don’t ingest healthy fats in your diet, your body will assume you’re not getting any and hold on to the fat you have!]

Exercise – Everyone always wants that perfect fat-burning workout. There are many ways to skin a cat. I’m not saying that you can’t program for fat loss, but for most people, they don’t need to get too specific. It’s always about moving more and sitting less. Also, you could probably use a boost in intensity. Intervals over steady-state cardio might give you a big performance boost if you aren’t used to that type intensity from your conditioning work. Adding in a brisk walk every other day, especially in a fasted state (like before breakfast!) can do wonders for increasing fat loss during a transformation. For your weight training, there are a few different strategies that work. You can do circuits and complexes that essentially combine intervals with resistance training, or you can focus on hypertrophy and strength and just make sure you are doing some conditioning work later. Sometimes it takes introducing loads your body has never felt before to see change, whether its getting big or leaning out.

Recovery  – The biggest key to making exercise and physical activity a regular part of your life, is being able to recover optimally from each training session. Being sore and tired just discourages you from being active again. Invest in the little things like foam rollers, massage sticks, lacrosse balls, and stretching bands. Do this work regularly. It helps keep you injury free and reduces stress on the body’s tissues. You want to feel as good after you train as you did before, so that tomorrow you are excited and motivated to be active again. Contrast baths/showers are also effective, as are saunas and focused work from a soft-tissue specialist/manual therapist. Since most people should have a good list of dynamic warmup exercises to get them ready to train each day and maximize range of motion in their joints, having a workout where you cycle through all of these a couple times for 30 minutes is a great way to enhance recovery, practice certain athletic positions and improve blood flow throughout your body. If you want a good self-help guide to soft-tissue work, check out this amazing project.

Supplements – This is the one we’ve been waiting for. What is Kim Kardashian taking these days? Brad Pitt? Chaz Bono? Well, I’m not entirely sure, and at least one of them probably requires a prescription. This section is the most optional of them all. You can use certain supplements to help boost progress, but its the first category you can do without if you are on a budget or merely simplifying your approach. As always multivitamins should be a staple for anyone active. Cover your bases. Next is a decent protein powder. You should carry around 3-4 scoops in a ziploc bag or a piece of tupperware, so that you are ready in case you get hungry at a time when a snack isn’t packed. It’s also good when you are travelling, as you really only need water and a bottle to make it work. Fish oil pills or liquids provide those essential fatty acids I talked about earlier, which are very important for staying healthy and burning body fat. I highly recommend these ones. Green tea and green tea extract are helpful supplements, just remember the active ingredient, ECGC works synergistically with caffeine, so a good cup of brewed green tea is the best choice. Other than that, go check out this article to find out more about peri-workout nutrition.

The Good Stuff

Stress/Sleep – Finally, the more stress you carry, the harder it is to transform your body, therefore, meditate, drink tea, read, get a massage, and most importantly sleep. Sleep is where most of the body’s adaptation to exercise occurs, so it’s imperative that you get plenty of it. Don’t forget to smile. You get to choose whether a particular event will bum you out or if you’ll shrug it off and get back to work. Don’t take everything too seriously, it may be wearing your body down!

I know this one was a little long, i just wanted to remind all of you that when you are looking to accomplish something with your health and performance, it is important to remember that it is a JOURNEY, not a quick program or supplement. Live hypertrophy, live fat-loss, live high performance. You can’t have it both ways. Plan for it all!

It’s About Getting Better!

Believe it or not…endurance running is about power!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Sprinters versus marathoners…Nothing alike they say…A whole different can of worms…Well, I’m here to tell you they are closer than they appear. Sure there is a definite difference in which energy systems are used as the primary fuel source, but there are also many commonalities. For example, they both race for time, so at the end of the day, the fastest runner wins. With that in mind, ground contact time on each stride is the enemy. The longer we are on the ground for each step, the slower our time will be, since it means we are not going anywhere!

So how do we reduce ground contact time? Essentially it comes down to stiffness. When preparing to strike the ground, we need to activate a whole bunch of muscles in our legs along with having good stiffness in our connective tissue. This way, after driving downward, our leg essentially bounces off the ground as quickly as possible. If our muscles aren’t trained to withstand the high ground reaction forces, some of our joints will bend, absorbing much of the energy and sticking to the ground. This can cause some overuse injuries, and also slow us down.

Why power training? Stiffness is another word for tension. The ability to create tension is basically strength. Strength in a short period of time is power. A running stride definitely falls into the category of short period of time! Power training involves any exercises that involve creating a high level force, but at the fastest rate possible.

Most endurance runners spend almost all of their time doing long distance running assuming that the more they run, the better they will get. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The more we run, the more efficient our body becomes at running. This means we use less energy to create the same result. It doesn’t necessarily mean we increase our maximum running speed. As I mentioned earlier, marathons are still a race, the fastest runner for 26 miles wins.

If you want to really drop your time in your endurance event, start putting more focus on sprints and strength training. Don’t worry, you won’t immediately turn into a meathead. What you will do, with the proper guidance of course, is improve your ability to transfer force through the ground in order to propel your body forward. This means more speed, and a better time!

Remember, it’s about getting better!

HIIT it for Fat Loss!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , on December 10, 2010 by razorsedgeperformance

Whenever I get a new client who’s looking to lose fat (and who isn’t), the same question often comes up: so how much cardio should I be doing?? Something about the word cardio just turns me right off. It sounds so boring and catabolic. The common practice of hitting the eliptical or treadmill for 40 minutes or more can help to burn calories, but will also have a negative effect on lean body mass. In order to provide the body with energy, you will eventually turn to body fat stores, but muscle will also need to be broken down for amino acids. This is very counterproductive towards Body Fat percentage. The result is that you create a smaller version of the same person! Sure you lost 10lbs, but you’re still 30% BF. Our goal in creating a lean efficient body is to increase muscle mass while decreasing body fat. Let us take a look at track and field to give us a good example of what we’re talking about. The athletes which have the lowest amounts of body fat and the highest amounts of muscle are the sprinters. The athletes running 100m, 200m, and 400m are the epitome of lean machines. It’s no secret how they’ve become this way, weight training and interval training! What about the long distance runners, who run for hours at a time? Do they have the body you’re looking for?

Which would you rather be?

For certain athletes, interval training is not so much a preferrential choice they make, but a standard training protocol for their sport. Any athlete who uses repeated bouts of high intensity exercise can benefit from interval training and should probably already be doing them. That being said, there is a place for interval training in everyone’s workout. You don’t have to be Usain Bolt to try and use the advantages of HIIT.

What is HIIT exactly?

HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training, is a training method where an individual does a short period of anaerobic work followed by a  period of rest and then repeats this for anywhere up to 10 or 12 minutes. This can be done with a number of different pieces of equipment or tools; sprinting, spinning, skipping, rowing, swimming and even ballistic type resistance training can all be used for interval training. The important part is to make sure your “sprint” interval is near maximal effort. This is why intervals are difficult to do on your own, most individuals have difficulty pushing themselves that hard with no one watching. IF you can man up and get it done, you’ll be that much better for it, trust me.

Why do HIIT?

My first introduction with the science behind HIIT came from a strength training symposium at the University of Western Ontario. During this symposium I saw a great presentation on a study they were doing using 30 second sprints followed by 4 minutes of rest. They compared their results with a protocol of 40min of steady state cardio. The results were incredible, not only were the interval subjects working out for far less (only 4-6 sprints of 30s each), but they were achieving the same results in conditioning. In fact, some of their subjects reported improvements in a 5km run, a 10km bike and a 40km bike. This goes to show that repeated bouts of anaerobic exercise can increase aerobic performance, but the opposite is not true. Sitting on an elliptical for 40 min WILL NOT improve your sprinting. HIIT utilizes something called EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption). Essentially, when you’re depleting your body of oxygen using intervals and not allowing it to fully replenish, your body works at absorbing oxygen for hours after your workout. This oxygen is used for a number of bodily functions which increase metabolism. Studies have shown that the increased metabolic rate can exist upwards of 13hrs! It’ll stick with you longer than that greasy hamburger you had at lunch! This also means that when your cardio machine spits out the number of calories burned, it is only telling half the story. The 40 minutes of steady-state cardio will elicit a much larger number of calories burned, but once you get off the machine, your body stops. With HIIT, you are on the machine for a much shorter time frame, so it appears that you don’t burn that many calories. However, since your metabolism is jacked up for the rest of the day, you end up burning way more calories in the end.  

How do I do HIIT?

Doing HIIT can be very simple. For most of my clients I suggest a starting protocol of a 1:3 or 1:4 work to rest ratio and have them starting around 6-8 min total. For example, doing a 20sec sprint followed by 40sec rest, repeated 6 times. If you’ve been able to increase your time and are still looking for more, then start ramping up the speed of the sprint. For advanced practitioners, take a shot at the tabata protocol! Tabata is a protocol which uses 20sec sprint with a 10s rest for a total of 4min. Sure 4 mins doesn’t seem like much now, but if you go hard enough you’ll understand.

With the holidays approaching, many people are going to be looking for a way to counteract unwanted weight gain. Try throwing in 2-3 HIIT sessions per week to really improve your conditioning and your body comp!!

Even during the christmas break,

It’s About Getting Better!

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